In the last couple of months I have been affected by some events which made me feel like the ground beneath me became a little unsteady, a sensation of getting back to the shore after a choppy boat trip. Come to think of it, just the uncertainty caused by the mutating Covid virus and its consequences, are enough to unsettle anyone, especially in this time of year, when so many of us rely on traditions and rituals which help ground us. Any changes in life, whether unexpected or self-inflicted, are hard. I've been thinking about how to navigate changes and difficult times via anchors.
Anchors is a metaphor I'm using for anything steady and within your control. Many people turn to exercise. A regular exercise routine really helps to bring in some order and create your own space amidst work and other responsibilities. Exercise is also great for endorphins, and it creates headspace for frazzled minds. I talked to a friend who has been struggling with demands of home-schooling but found that regular yoga and personal training sessions have helped her breathe again.
Exercise isn't, however, available to everyone. I used to turn to exercise for years until I fell ill with ME/CFS and had to find other ways to control my well-being. I can now exercise again but it's by no means constant. One of my anchors is cold-swimming, something I've started doing about four years ago. When you submerge yourself in cold water of, say 5C, and start swimming, there is literally no space to feel anger, anxiety or stress, because you have to concentrate on your strokes. Your senses are heightened by the burning cold and you think to yourself: "This is me being a real badass, and no one can take it away from me." Once out of the water, your body is glowing, and your mind is so clear, you feel you can take on the world. Another benefit of cold swimming is that you realise that your mind is incredibly powerful: of course you feel the cold physically, but regular swimming trains your brain to bypass that sensation. What you feel is your own personal power. (By the way, about an hour after swimming, because of ME/CFS, I tend to get very tired and my mind turns into 'cotton wool'. I then need to rest to feel better again. If you choose to give cold-swimming a go, do so responsibly.)
My ultimate anchor is meditation. I have been meditating daily for seven years and less regularly for even longer. Health benefits of meditation are widely publicised. For me, it simply revives me, but there are many other positive effects too. Even ten minutes of meditation (by yourself or via an app such as Headspace or Calm) help to 'close down all those windows' open in your mind, like tabs on your phone or computer. Focusing on your breath, for example, means keeping just one such window open. You feel calmer, clearer and energised in a much more levelled way than what you might get from a hit of caffeine or sugar.
What about relationships? Relationships are the sinews that connect our lives. But romantic relationships, friendships and family are fragile and may break up and fall, like branches off a tree. Having a support network is vital in turbulent times, but relationships are fluid. People disappear or move on. Having an anchor means retaining something within your control.
I'd very interested to hear any other ideas which work for you. Stay grounded and Happy New Year!